Friday's strange coincidence at Harborview Medical Center was also a sad reminder of Seattle's rising toll from gun violence.
As relatives of two young shooting victims began gathering at Harborview Medical Center on Friday afternoon, 18-year-old Darrold Edwards — who was injured in a shooting three weeks ago that claimed the life of his 17-year-old friend — was just being discharged.
The two young people were shot Friday at a stoplight at South Dearborn Street and Rainier Avenue South when somebody fired at them from another vehicle in broad daylight, police said. A single gunshot struck the male victim in the hand, and the same bullet appears to have hit a female passenger in the side. Both are expected to be OK, according to family members.
The timing of the victims’ admission to the hospital with Edwards’ discharge was a strange coincidence. But in a city rattled by recent gunfire and a steadily increasing murder count, it seemed a poignant reminder of the seemingly constant parade of gunshot victims who have found themselves in the emergency room of the region’s trauma center since the start of the year.
Relatives of Friday’s shooting victims declined to be interviewed. But Edwards’ mother, Sharon Banks-Lee, said, “It never stops,” referring to the most recent shooting. As another relative pushed her son’s wheelchair into the sunlight, Banks-Lee said they were looking forward to bringing him home.
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Edwards was shot once in the leg and twice in the back outside a Shoreline apartment complex on May 16. His friend, Tiana Montgomery, was fatally wounded. Five days later, suspected gunman Joseph Cooley turned himself in. Charged with second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder, Cooley, 20, is being held in the King County Jail in lieu of $2 million bail.
“There’s always another one, and it’s a shame,” Banks-Lee said of the stream of young people injured in gun violence she has seen in the weeks since her son was admitted to Harborview. “But today we are celebrating my son’s life and his recovery.”
Meanwhile, Seattle police were conducting a manhunt for Friday’s shooting suspect, who sped north on Rainier Avenue South with other occupants of a gray GMC Yukon or Chevy Suburban with a red stripe on the side, according to police spokesman Jeff Kappel.
Soon after the 1:30 p.m. shooting, officers stopped a vehicle at Fourth Avenue and Yesler Way, but the four people inside were allowed to leave after police identified them, Kappel said.
A few hours later, just before 5 p.m. Friday, Seattle officers responded to a shots-fired call near the corner of 23rd Avenue South and South Jackson Street. No one was struck by the gunfire in that incident, police said.
Information from witnesses helped police locate a suspect, a man in his early 20s, in a clothing store near the shooting scene. He was arrested without incident, and a handgun believed to have been used in the shooting was recovered.
At the scene of the earlier shooting off Rainier Avenue South, a 46-year-old Renton man said he had been in front of the victims’ vehicle at the stoplight on Dearborn Street. He was on his lunch break and was waiting to make a left turn onto Rainier Avenue South when he heard a loud bang.
He then felt a light tap to his rear bumper as he was rear-ended by the victims’ vehicle.
“I put two and two together, and I got out of my car to see if they were OK. I was a little scared because I knew it was a gunshot,” said the man, who declined to give his name but who gave a statement to police. “There was only one gunshot I heard. It came from behind, but it was really close and super-loud.”
He saw a young man get out of the vehicle clutching his bloody hand, followed by a young woman who was grabbing her side, the man said.
“She kept saying, ‘I can’t believe this happened,’ and she stumbled into the auto shop” nearby to get help, the witness said. Another young man who had been in the victims’ vehicle but was not injured yelled to the witness to move his truck “because he said he was going to drive his friends to the hospital,” the man said.
The witness, who had called 911 but was on hold, got back into his vehicle and circled the block. By the time he returned to the shooting scene, the three young people had jumped back into their vehicle and driven off — presumably to Harborview, which is less than a mile away.
“It could’ve been me” that was hit, said the man, who got only a “quick look” at the suspect vehicle, which he described as “a dark truck or SUV.”
It’s been a little more than a week since Seattle police launched a five-hour manhunt for Ian Stawicki, a mentally ill 40-year-old who opened fire on patrons of Cafe Racer in Seattle’s University District, killing four of them: Joe Albanese, Drew Keriakedes, Kimberly Layfield and Donald Largen. A fifth person, Leonard Meuse, who was also shot, is recovering.
About a half-hour later, Stawicki shot and killed Gloria Leonidas as he carjacked her Mercedes SUV in a parking lot near downtown. He later shot himself in the head on a West Seattle sidewalk as police moved in to arrest him.
Last week’s deaths brought to 21 the number of homicides committed in Seattle so far this year — which is one more than in all of 2011. Of those 21 victims, all but two were killed by gunfire, including Justin Ferrari, who was fatally shot while driving through the Central District on May 24, and Nicole Westbrook, who was hit by a stray bullet April 22 while walking home in Pioneer Square.
A community meeting with Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and police officials to discuss the recent gun violence is being planned for June 18 at Town Hall Seattle.
“What’s happening in Seattle unfortunately is mirroring what’s happening in other parts of the country,” Police Chief John Diaz said during a round-table discussion Wednesday with the Seattle City Council’s Public Safety Committee.
Over Memorial Day weekend, a bystander was shot in the calf near Seattle Center and members of an Asian street gang sprayed four houses with more than 60 bullets in a series of drive-by shootings in the Rainier Valley.
That same weekend in Chicago there were 41 shootings and 10 homicides, the chief said.
Diaz said the increasing availability of guns — and people’s willingness to use them to settle disputes — is a troubling trend police in major cities are all grappling with.
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or email@example.com